Data chase top dog names in Allegheny County

Brian Bowling
| Monday, Dec. 28, 2015, 10:24 p.m.

When it came time to name their French bulldog puppy, Kevin and Mandy Beamon decided to leave the decision to their two daughters.

But Mandy cast the deciding vote, her husband said.

“They were all fighting over a name,” said Beamon of Mt. Lebanon. “Someone said ‘Molly.' My wife said, ‘That sounds good. Let's go with that.' ”

Inadvertently, the Beamons picked one of the most popular names for dogs in Alle­gheny County's suburbs and the nation.

An analysis of the county's dog license data, covering all communities outside Pittsburgh, shows the five most popular names for female dogs are Bella, Lucy, Molly, Sadie and Daisy. The five most popular names for male dogs are Buddy, Max, Charlie, Rocky and Toby.

The data — from licenses issued in 2015 and a list of lifetime licenses — redact owners' names and addresses, so it's not possible to determine if records that look like duplicates refer to the same dog or different dogs.

For example, the list includes four female golden retrievers named Molly in the 15116 ZIP code. There's nothing to show whether each record refers to a different dog.

Though Pittsburgh has dog licensing data, the city could not immediately produce a copy.

But Rover.com, which helps dog owners find dog sitters, compiles lists of popular names nationwide. In Pittsburgh, it similarly lists Bella, Lucy, Daisy, Molly and Lola, with Sadie coming in sixth, and more variation for male dogs: Max, Charlie, Buddy, Cooper, Jack, Rocky and Toby.

Another Molly in Mt. Lebanon, this one a yellow Labrador retriever, got her name partly because her blondish-reddish hair resembled that of Molly Ringwald in “Sixteen Candles,” said Maity Kirk.

“I've grown up always having people names for my pets,” she said.

In a household with her husband and two sons, finding a good name for the only other female was important, she said.

“We wanted something that had two syllables that was easy to say,” Kirk said.

When Lorelei Laffey bought a miniature schnauzer 10 years ago, “I just went to a website where it gave alphabetical suggestions for dog names,” she said. By the time she worked her way through the As, tedium had set in, and when she came across “Bailey” it seemed to fit, she said.

“I call my dog a million different things and he answers to all of them,” she said. “Bailey Boo. Snuggle Bug.”

An Internet search turns up dozens of articles giving advice on how to pick a dog's name. Some suggestions seem to be universal; others contradict each other.

“There's no science on dog-naming. It's just common sense,” said Alexandra Horowitz, a cognitive scientist at Columbia University's Barnard College who studies how dogs think. Pick a name you don't mind repeating and that can't be confused with the names for people or other pets in the household, Horowitz said.

Research shows that dogs respond more readily to short, rising sounds than long, falling sounds, and it's more difficult to say a one-syllable name with a rising inflection. “I don't think a one-syllable name is bad,” she said. “It's just that the dog needs to be able to distinguish it from the other words that owners say.”

Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301.

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